The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #117: Return of the Jedi

General Introduction
– Wrapped up in wires
– How tall are we?
– Listener feedback

The Descent to the Underworld
– Opening the third act
– Katabasis
– A gender-reversed Orpheus
– What makes Danny’s daughter upset
– A sign of Luke’s power

Jabba the Hutt
– Fat Brando
– Edward Said has an aneurysm
– Dobra Do Henry VIII, Dobra Do
– A warning sign for human consumption
– Parodying the empire

Back to Dagobah
– Taking on the family trade
– The thin place
– How to finish your training
– Obi Wan’s relativism
– Lessons from the Jedi masters

Exposition
– An iceberg
– Art-house Star Wars
– Providing symmetry
– Han and Lando
– The gender politics of Return of the Jedi

The Ewoks
– Better than you remember
– The noble savage
– The marketing tail wags the dog
– Danny deconstructs the battle
– Nature vs. machine
– C3PO’s character arc

Inside the Death Star
– The tedium of the emperor
– Luke in the hurricane’s eye
– The ethical dilemma at the heart of the battle
– Darth Vader’s quasi-redemption
– The length of the empire
– The emperor has no clothes
– Evil imploding
– Nerd alert!

To Zub-Zub or Not to Zub-Zub
– Incorporating the prequels
– The new Disney soundtrack
– Luke’s ghostly visions
– Lucas gets desperate
– We talk about race for awhile

Lightning Round
– The journey of the epic hero
– The happiest of the films
– On Wedge
– John Williams again

10 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #117: Return of the Jedi

  1. On the self-destructive implosive nature of the Dark Side, we should not be surprised, seeing as how Yoda’s warning to Luke in Empire Strikes Back was “Once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will.”  Luke asks “Is the Dark Side stronger?” and Yoda insists “No! No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  Although some saw the prequels’ “balance” talk as being a yin-yang thing, Yoda’s description is more about evil as privation.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that the Empire was a tiny blip in the history of the galaxy, but if the Dark Side is a corrupt and unbalanced perversion of the Force, it’s not surprising that a political system founded by a Sith Lord would be unstable and unsustainable.

    NERD ALERT*: Anakin’s Force ghost was Whiney McPoutface instead of Old Guy because the ghost is the result of merging one’s spirit with the Force.  The Dark Side is a corruption of the Force, so his “uncorrupted” self appears as he was before his turn to the Dark Side (merely being an annoying twerp is not as bad as going Sith).  Yoda and Obi-Wan never turned to the Dark Side, so their Force ghosts appear as they were at their deaths.

    Did you just say that Lucas bragged about the research that went into
    Dark Maul?  Really? How many seconds of research did it take to get
    “dark red guy with horns” as the visual for an evil character?
    *Technical term: “fanwank”   http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanWank

  2. Charles H : Perhaps Whiney McPoutface is the “uncorrupted” self of Anakin Skywalker, but he’s not really a morally positive character either. He is, at best, a moral nullity with good coaches. I would argue that Anakin’s turn from his Darth Vader identity at the end of RotJ pushes him further to the side of good than pre-Dark Side Anakin had ever been. So, I’d say it should still be the Old Guy. (Moreover, it’s a profound jerk move on Lucas’s part: Old Guy was Anakin Skywalker for YEARS, than Lucas takes that away from him!)

    Re: the non-Zub RotJ end music: It’s not just Disney — it’s generic “world music” of the most cloying, ersatz-global kind. Say what you will about Ewok Zub-Zub music, at least it’s from a particular culture! But instead of letting the Ewoks be the particular voice of galactic celebration, in which our heroes join, the “special edition” treats us to the celebratory voice of nobody in particular, in music that only the film-goers can hear.

  3. dgrubbs Charles H And so the DVD changes become a debate over progressive (de-)sanctification! 😉  But you’re right–the Anakin who’s already murdered a whole village of sand people, helped Palpatine kill Mace Windu, had his name changed to Darth Vader, massacred a temple full of Jedi children, tried to force-choke his own pregnant wife to death, and done every blasted thing EXCEPT put on the armor is hardly “uncorrupted.”

  4. ngilmour dgrubbs
    Yes, by the time Anakin was slaughtering kids and killing Mace Windu, he had definitely gone over to the Dark Side.  So if I’m right (“if”? Of course I’m right), his Force ghost would resemble him in the early part of Attack of the Clones, while he was still just obnoxiously mooning over Padme.
    (Someone stop me.  I’m arguing about the prequels and defending Darth Lucas. I feel like I need a shower.)
    But this is a good question, even if we accept my basic position on the ghost. Yoda said that once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.  So when did Anakin start down that path?  Killing the sand people was an obvious Dark choice, but Grubbs is right that pre-fall Anakin, even pre-sand people, was just kind of… there… doing things… Was it that he’d always been weak, and always been Dark-prone, but just hadn’t faced a temptation like the one represented by a village full of the people who had killed his mother? That would mean that Yoda was right on the money when he sensed little Anakin’s potential for darkness. So does your “uncorrupted” Force-self not include inner corruption, only outward evil acts?

    (Another possibility: Maybe Lucas is just a bad writer who put Hayden in RotJ because he thought he had to establish continuity with the prequels with all the subtlety of a dropped anvil, and I’m fanwanking this way too hard.)

  5. Charles H ngilmour dgrubbs I’m thinking the parenthetical theory is the accurate one, at least regarding George Lucas.
    Though the question of “what counts as evil to the Force?” is an interesting one. I’ve always been a little bothered by Yoda identifying the Dark Side with emotions (fear, anger, aggression). If one, for instance, wipes out a village while feeling only a sense of dutiful resolve, does that push one over to the Dark Side? If one defends a child from assault while feeling fear (for the child’s safety) and anger (against a wicked deed), does that push one over to the Dark Side? Clearly the Jedi Order needs a Thomas Aquinas.

  6. dgrubbs ngilmour
    Right. The role of moral emotions there is problematic.  I might have tried to argue that anger, fear, and aggression are egocentric emotions, but your examples are other-centered fear and anger, so that wouldn’t work (and then Yoda should have said that selfishness is the path to the Dark Side).  His description of the Good Side involves feeling “calm, at peace, passive” (the “passive” thing sounds Taoist), so could a Jedi righteously slaughter sand people as long as he feels calm and peaceful while doing it?
    Then in Revenge of the Sith [gag], Yoda turns Buddhist: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who
    transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.
    Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.” In which case, why did Yoda get upset when Anakin killed all those Jedi-in-training children?

  7. Charles H dgrubbs ngilmour  
    An attachment-averse ideology seems less than optimal for those with whom the defense of the Republic is entrusted.

  8. After re-listening:
    Note on Wedge: The first time Luke meets C-3PO, 3PO says, “Our former master was Captain Antilles…” referring to Wedge Antilles. Outside of the movies and after the Battle of Yavin, he forms Rogue Squadron, which appear in the Battle of Hoth and Battle of Endor. There is a complete storyline for Rogue Squadron in the post-movie world and a full pre-movies narrative for Wedge. Dennis Lawson, the actor who played Wedge, is Ewan McGregor’s uncle. Ewan talks about it in the DVD specials.

    A further interesting connection, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas worked together in one of Coppola’s early films. They became life-long friends, building/working in studios in the San Francisco area.

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